As the Andretti Autosport communications staff went to the Bandit Coffee Company in St Petersburg on Friday morning, the staff received ticket No28 as they were waiting for their order. Later that afternoon, new Andretti driver Romain Grosjean went fastest in the first practice session at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series season while driving car No28.
“We need to go to the coffee place all the time! I said talk to Michael [Andretti], he would cover the expenses for the coffee,” Grosjean said.
Anyone that watched Grosjean over the past season in IndyCar knew that his pace could deliver results. With one pole and three podium finishes for the Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing partnership, Grosjean showed the racing world that he had the ability to produce good results, following on from years of below-par machinery with Haas in Formula 1.
Being near the front of the field was Grosjean’s target as he moved to an entirely new form of racing. Hearing that he was near the front at Barber Motorsports Park in the first warmup session last year made the switch to North American racing worth it.
“Olivier [Boisson, race engineer] hit the radio, ‘That’s P1,’ and I’m like, ‘Oh! Oh! I haven’t heard that for how long,’ you know? That’s what I needed,” Grosjean said.
“In Formula 1, you did nothing. Everything is taken care of for you,”
Boisson moved to Andretti with Grosjean as part of a package deal since the two hit it off so well both professionally and personally. Boisson noted that Grosjean’s demeanour was even happier over the last year and that is playing into his results in America. By enjoying every moment, it has helped Grosjean succeed.
“[Grosjean] knows he’s got good resources, he knows he’s got a good car,” Boisson said. “You know, when testing at Sebring, right away he was quick. He knows there is something there. So it is just relaxing.”
Coming to IndyCar was a large gamble for Grosjean. After a decade of Formula 1 experience all around the world, Grosjean didn’t exactly know what he was getting himself into with a small team that needed a sponsor and racing mainly for prize money.
After a year at a team with fewer than 30 full time employees, Grosjean is now racing for a top-level organisation with at least 150 full time employees and enough resources that it is trying to expand into Formula 1 in a couple of years.
Those resources are apparent to Grosjean in the small details. If he feels like the steering wheel hand grips need some adjustments, those can be changed easily, or the steering wheel spacers or the pedal placement needs some adjustments, that can be done too. Those adjustments weren’t as easily available to him before, but Grosjean had to make do with what was available and had to work around what wasn’t.
For example, at Dale Coyne Racing Grosjean booked all of his own travel. From flights to hotels and even driving his motorhome across the country, it was a brand new experience compared to what he had been used to.
“In Formula 1, you did nothing. Everything is taken care of for you,” Grosjean said.
Sure, Andretti Autosport has a travel office that helps, but Grosjean still takes time to do some things himself, such as booking flights for an upcoming test at Texas Motor Speedway on Wednesday.
Grosjean’s upcoming test at Texas will be an attempt to help make himself more comfortable on superspeedways. After skipping Texas and the Indianapolis 500 last year, Grosjean will be racing the No. 28 Honda on the ultra-fast ovals to try and get that car its first win since Ryan Hunter-Reay won in the 2018 IndyCar season finale at Sonoma Raceway.
If St. Petersburg is any indication, Grosjean just might get that first win sooner than anyone outside of the team expects.